Pine Needles Plan: Keep a Cool Head
B efore we react to something, it's always good to know what we're reacting to. But that hasn't stopped those who seem automatically opposed to - or at least alarmed and suspicious about - whatever might be planned or considered for the large tract of undeveloped land belonging to Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club.
No matter how lightly Pine Needles CEO Kelly Miller attempts to tread, some profess to hear the crashing footfalls of an out-of-control giant. Yet Miller and the Bell family appear to be trying hard to be as upfront as possible. If they haven't come out and said what they want to see on that land, it's apparently because they don't know yet.
Pretty Property, Ugly History
Granted, there is plenty of reason for prickliness all around. This is, after all, a key piece of property strategically located near the intersection of U.S. 1 and N.C. 2 on the northeastern edge of Southern Pines. Whatever goes in there could potentially have major impact on the future of the town, including its lovely and lively downtown.
People on both sides - if there have to be "sides" - can also be forgiven for harboring feelings of the once-burned, twice-cautious variety. This is the same property that stood at the center of a major confrontation five years ago - one that helped determine the outcome of a Town Council election, saw the defeat of the ambitious planned unit development (PUD) known as Pine Needles Village, and left bitterness all around.
To his credit, Miller seems determined to avoid a repeat of that ugly episode by being as open and transparent as possible. Rather than investing a lot of time and money ahead of time on a specific plan, only to see it again shot down, he and his organization are now focusing on attempting to get the land rezoned to PUD status, which would give both town and developer more flexibility as they move ahead.
Holiday Meeting Aroused Suspicion
In any case, it didn't help at all that the Town Council decided to go ahead and schedule its discussion of the touchy issue on the afternoon of a work session held on Memorial Day. This fed conspiracy theories that the fix was in and the project was being fast-tracked on a day when it was hoped that a lot of people would be sunning at the beach or flipping burgers in their backyards.
Nor did it ease concerns when somebody local went on Google and found an interview with California developer Bob Sonnenblick, in which he bragged that he would break ground at the end of this year on a monster outlet center, Pinehurst Factory Stores, to be located - guess where - on the Pine Needles tract.
But Miller denied all that blabbing, saying that Sonnenblick, who had earlier had a falling-out with the Van Camp family and others planning a big project near Morganton Road, was again out of the picture. Miller emphasized that the Bell family isn't actively marketing the property, though they've had expressions of interest from four or five developers with various plans in mind.
Any specific plans submitted will be available for public inspection in town offices. Meanwhile, it's in everyone's interest to keep a level head, avoid firing up the rumor mill, and avoid jumping to unwarranted conclusions.
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